KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Details Emerge About Key Fixers In ‘Tech Surge’ To Address Website Issues

News outlets report that the administration's so-called "tech surge" has been somewhat mysterious, but it's becoming clear that the administration has enlisted engineers from a number of major companies.

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Oracle, Red Hat Join In Effort To Fix Problems Crippling Obama's Healthcare Site
The Obama administration has recruited engineers from several prominent technology companies to help fix the problems preventing people from signing up for government-mandated health insurance. Oracle and Red Hat are pitching in as well as Michael Dickerson, an engineer on leave from Google, according to a blog post Thursday by Julie Bataille, a spokeswoman for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (10/31).

Bloomberg: Google, Oracle Workers Enlisted For Obamacare 'Tech Surge'
Google Inc., Red Hat Inc., Oracle Corp. and other technology companies are contributing dozens of computer engineers and programmers to help the Obama administration fix the U.S. health-insurance exchange website. The help is arriving as the government's main site for medical coverage remains plagued by repeated outages a month after its Oct. 1 debut (Wayne, 11/1). 

PoliticoPro: Obamacare 'Tech Surge' Has D.C. Ties
The clandestine Obamacare "tech surge" details unveiled by the administration Thursday have one thing in common — ties to Washington. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services spokeswoman Julie Bataille described "dozens" of experts rounded up to help with the repairs, but she mentioned only four, all familiar to either the Obama administration or federal IT. Google engineer Michael Dickerson has joined the team, she said, along with Presidential Innovation Fellow Greg Gershman, Oracle and Red Hat (Meyers, 10/31).

CQ HealthBeat: Few Clues Released In Mystery Over Tech 'Surge'
In the 11 days since it announced a "tech surge" to fix the federal insurance exchange website, the Obama administration has given few details about the number of people involved, what federal agencies or companies they come from, their names, and whether they are volunteers or are being paid by the federal government (Reichard, 10/31). 

The Fiscal Times: 4 Fixes Designers Would Make To Obamacare Exchanges
Set the political fallout from the rollout aside, and Obamacare is still the law of the land. People without insurance still must obtain it by March or face penalties. Sebelius has pledged to fix the site, but it remains to be seen how the site should be fixed in order to make it more user friendly, and how customer service should be improved. To get a idea of how to make the Obamacare exchanges more user-friendly, I reached out to customer service consultants to get their take on how to improve the customer’s experience. These consultants found numerous problems with the site, and suggested a number of ways that it could be improved (Francis, 11/1).

Concerns about security lapses also continue -

The Wall Street Journal: Data Security Added To Worries About Website
Concerns about the security of personal information on the website are getting closer attention in Washington, potentially adding to the list of problems with the new federal health-insurance exchange. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, led by Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.), on Thursday subpoenaed information about the website from the Obama administration, including on whether the site was well-protected from hackers (Corbett Dooren and Schatz, 10/31).

The Hill: O-Care Contractor Cited For Security Lapses
A contractor heavily involved in repairing was previously criticized for endangering the personal data of more than 6 million government beneficiaries through insufficient security controls. Lax data safety at Quality Software Services, Inc. (QSSI) was deemed a "high" risk in a June probe by federal investigators that revealed the company had failed to stop its employees from connecting unauthorized USB devices to highly sensitive Medicare systems (Viebeck, 10/31). 

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